Federico Fernandez was looking like one of the signings of the season for Newcastle United earlier this term, but the former Swansea City man is suddenly on the outside looking in at St James’ Park.
The 29-year-old is undoubtedly a terrific defender, but the chances of his name appearing on the Magpies team sheet are looking slimmer and slimmer with every passing week.
That’s because Rafael Benitez has seemingly settled on his preferred central defensive trio of Fabian Schar, Jamaal Lascelles and Florian Lejeune in recent weeks, and based on their performances there’s no chance of any of them getting dropped any time soon.
That leaves the 32-cap Argentina international out in the cold with his Magpies career fizzling fast. He was immensely impressive earlier this campaign but a badly timed injury has seemingly put paid to his first team hopes.
You can’t blame Benitez for going with what works. Newcastle have been playing better football since the turn of the year and have looked more solid at the back. Much of that is due to the formation the Spaniard has gone with of late, as well as the fine displays from his central defensive trio.
The problem for Fernandez is that Lascelles and his teammates compliment each other so well, leaving no real room for him to usurp one of them. Schar is the ball-player at the heart of the defence, bringing it out from the back and spraying wonderful cross-field passes all over the pitch.
Lascelles, meanwhile, is the quickest and most powerful of the trio – the most natural defender. Lejeune combines the quality of both of his partners, as well as being adored by the Magpies faithful.
That leaves little room for Fernandez, except from as an extra defensive option off the bench late on in games. It’s a shame for him, but there’s not much he can do at the moment.
It will be interesting to see if the Argentine considers his future come the end of the season if things continue how they’ve been going. One thing’s for sure, though, he is suddenly very much on the periphery at Tyneside.